Serena Freewomyn

What Mormons Really Say About Gays

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | November 13, 2007 11:04 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: LDS Church, Mormon, sexuality & religion

345px-Slc_mormon_tempel.jpgIt's not easy for me to talk about the Mormon Church (aka "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," aka the LDS Church) without coming across as angry. But I wanted to offer some additional information about the article Alex posted last week regarding the Mormon Church's position on homosexuality.

First off, I want to apologize for using the term "homosexuality," because I find it dehumanizing and offensive. But seeing as this is the term used in the majority of the Church's literature, I will be commenting on that.

Secondly, I want to apologize for not being able to remain "objective." But after being raised in the Mormon Church, it's really hard for me not to get pissed off about the Church's teachings in regards to sexual orientation.

The Mormon Church has received a lot of publicity lately, for good or for bad, because of two people: Mitt Romney and Warren Jeffs. Romney, of course, is the dude running for the Republican presidential nomination. And Jeffs is the former leader of a fundamentalist branch of the LDS Church who was convicted earlier this year of rape as an accomplice after he forced a fourteen year old girl to marry her nineteen year old cousin. If you believe a lot of the media's coverage of the issue, Mormons are rare creatures who only live in Utah, despite the fact that the LDS Church is a multi-billion dollar institution with over 15 million members worldwide.

Last week, Alex quoted an article that implied that the Mormon Church has recently softened its position on homosexuality. However, the Church still advocates that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be controlled and that church members should "love the sinner and hate the sin."

In a recent statement on the Church's website, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickham, both senior figures in the Church's hierarchy, issued a 17-page interview regarding "same-gender attraction." In response to a question about how parents should react if their child tells them that he is gay (the article never addresses lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender children), Elder Oaks responds:

The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It's no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation . . . Homosexuality . . . is not a noun that describes a condition. It's an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

Oaks, who is a lawyer by training, not a psychologist or medical doctor, goes onto say that:

Homosexual feelings are controllable. Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to such feelings that is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings, and feelings are controllable. If we cater to the feelings, they increase the power of the temptation. If we yield to the temptation, we have committed sinful behavior. That pattern is the same for a person that covets someone else's property and has a strong temptation to steal. It's the same for a person that develops a taste for alcohol. It's the same for a person that is born with a 'short fuse,' as we would say of a susceptibility to anger. If they let that susceptibility remain uncontrolled, it becomes a feeling of anger, and a feeling of anger can yield to behavior that is sinful and illegal. . . feelings can be controlled and behavior can be controlled. The line of sin is between the feelings and the behavior.

Perhaps the LDS Church was too busy dealing with the controversy of not allowing African Americans to hold the priesthood to notice that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1974. I don't know. But the last time I checked, this was still the case.

Playing upon old stereotypes that same-sex relationships are unfulfilling and incapable of bringing people joy, Oaks even has the balls to say:

There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.

The worst quote, however, from this tome comes from Elder Wickman, who claims:

Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that 'I'm not stuck with it forever.' It's just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it's hard to look beyond the 'now' sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it's only during this season.

In order to understand this quote, you might need a little primer in Mormon Doctrine 101. Mormons believe that we all existed in a spiritual realm called the "pre-existence" before we came to Earth and received our physical bodies. This life is a test to see if we will follow Heavenly Father's commandments, the most important one being that we have to get married in the Mormon Temple in order to get back into heaven (more on this later). After we die, we return to heaven and are judged according to how we lived our lives. The righteous become gods themselves and are able to create planets and populate them with their own spirit children for all eternity. (If you're scratching your head to figure that one out, don't worry... that's a normal reaction.)

By arguing that there are no gay people in the pre-existence or in the "hereafter," Wickman is arguing that God doesn't create gay people. (I think you can do the math to figure out how God feels about transgender people in this equation.) Growing up in that kind of atmosphere, I felt suicidal and totally alone. I thought that no one else could possibly feel like me and I was doomed to a life of unhappiness. I was never going to get into heaven, no matter how hard I tried. And I didn't really see a point in living if that was the case. You couldn't get into heaven if you committed suicide. But since I wasn't going there anyway, I didn't have much to lose. I don't think I'm the only lonely lesbian growing up in a Mormon household who ever felt that way.

Getting back to Mormon dogma... I know some LGBTQ Mormons and former Mormons (or homo Momos, as I like to call them) hold out hope that the Church will change its position and eventually recognize same-sex unions. After all, it wasn't too long ago that Blacks couldn't hold the priesthood. But I think it's foolishly naïve to think the Church is ever going to change its tune. Why?

Well, for starters, temple marriage is the guiding metaphor for everything else that happens in the Church. As I mentioned earlier, you can't get into the highest level of heaven without getting married in the temple. Here's what Wickman says to anyone who thinks that the Church might budge an inch on the issue:

For openers, marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy. Marriage is defined by the Lord Himself. It's the one institution that is ceremoniously performed by priesthood authority in the temple [and] transcends this world. It is of such profound importance... such a core doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the very purpose of the creation of this earth. One hardly can get past the first page of Genesis without seeing that very clearly. It is not an institution to be tampered with by mankind, and certainly not to be tampered with by those who are doing so simply for their own purposes. There is no such thing in the Lord's eyes as something called same-gender marriage. Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin. Calling it something else by virtue of some political definition does not change that reality.

If the definition of marriage is changed to allow anyone to get into heaven, then WTF is the point of having a Church with a hierarchy and handing over 10% of your income to the Church? Heaven has to be an exclusive party if it's going to be heaven. We can't just let in any sort of riff raff.

But to get back to the point of how the Church counsels parents to treat their children who refuse to give up the "homosexual lifestyle" (which I assume would include assless chaps and lots of Madonna), Oaks says:

That's a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, 'Please don't do that. Don't put us into that position.' Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.

I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, 'Yes, come, but don't expect to stay overnight. Don't expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don't expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your "partnership."

I've gotta say, I'm pretty lucky. Seven years ago, I had a mother who pretty much towed the party line. When I came out, I was kicked out of the house and I didn't speak to my mom for almost two years. Fast forward to last Thanksgiving. My mom came to visit me in Long Beach and actually asked if she could come to the Gay & Lesbian Center with me to meet my youth group. The kids were stunned when I introduced them to my mother. (So was I.) This year, my mom is sporting not one, but two, rainbow wind chimes on her front porch. In the last seven years, I've gone from having no mother to gaining a PFLAG mom. It's taken a lot of therapy and hard work on both our parts to get here. But it's been worth it.

Sadly, the Church doesn't think so. My mom was told last week that she's no longer eligible to attend the Temple because she refuses to tow the party line anymore in regards to her lesbian daughter. My mom's a good lady. In every other area of Church doctrine, she gets an A+. She gives 10% of her income to the Church. She doesn't watch rated-R movies and she doesn't drink caffeine. And yet, because of me, she's being told that she's unworthy. It's unfair that she has to pay for my so-called "sins."

I'm sorry to go off on a diatribe about this. But for anyone who's unfamiliar with Mormon culture, I didn't think it was an accurate representation of the Church to say that LDS leaders are getting more progressive on this issue, because they're not.

Also, please don't take this to be a dig on all Mormons. I think most Mormons are genuinely good people who try to do right by their families and be good to their neighbors. It's really unfortunate, however, that the Church's leadership can't accept that Father/Mother God (or Diana, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, or whoever/whatever you worship) could possible have created LGBTQ folks for a purpose. I might post my thoughts about that some other time. But for now, I'll just say, "Jah loves you too, bitches," and leave it at that.


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Nice article--I would only say that you have every right to sound angry and shouldn't apologize for it; to the contrary, let it fly and we will embrace you for it!

The righteous become gods themselves ...

Not quite. Only righteous males become gods, gender being another integral part of pre- and post-life existence. (Like many homophobic doctrines, this one actually makes the phenomenon of transgenderism more easily explicable, at least in cultural-religious terms.) Righteous females have a much lower place in the cosmic order, one which is largely dependent on their husbands -- and it ought to go without saying that righteous unmarried women have little if any place in the Mormon afterlife. At best, righteous Mormon women may eventually become the subservient wives of gods, having frequent spirit-sex with their respective celestial husbands and bearing many, many souls to populate the universe. If traditional Christianity is patriarchal, Mormonism is the patriarchy on steroids.

Thanks, Tim. I appreciate your clarification on that. If I would have gone off on the position of womyn in general in the Mormon Church, that would have been a diatribe of it's own.

Serena,

Thanks for sharing this information and for your thoughts and personal experiences. You have every right to be angry. I, like you, am a gay mormon (I had my name removed from the Church records) and still feel bitterness toward the "party line" despite tiny steps to soften their stance. I am not one of those people who thinks that the church will change its doctrinal position on this issue in the future. I've moved on. But my family remains in the church and they have to figure out how they will love me (their brother, uncle, father, ex-husband) and reconcile that with their testimony of this church.

Congrats to you and to your mother for her ability to see past the craziness! Oh and I hope you were just exaggerating the number of church members worldwide. There are only about 12 million...let's not give them more than they deserve!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 13, 2007 1:51 PM

Serena, I agree with Gay Recluse: you have reason to be angry!! And we will support you.

I'm so glad your mom came around. Rather than it being a bad thing that the church is rejecting her for supporting you, maybe it will lead eventually to her finding a life path that will lead to greater happiness and acceptance for who she is individually, rather than one where she is viewed as a mere extension of her husband. I hope so.

Is Serena apologizing for being angry? When she has every right to be?

Oh, my.

Thanks for posting this. I don't think many people really know all that much about Mormonism (myself included).

I agree with Alex. I didn't know very much about Mormonism before I read this. Very illuminating, and yes, I also agree with GR: If you're angry and you know it, let it fly!

Out of curiosity, why do you find the term homosexuality dehumanizing? Do you also find heterosexuality dehumanizing, or the term sexuality for that matter?

I find most of the gay community to be in a contemptuous relationship with the clinical community, although I don't understand why. I know they have made their mistakes, which were not unique to us as a category, but at least they rectified them, unlike other spheres in which I find the gay community to be in rather good terms with.

Furthermore, I think (please bear with me, I try to avoid too many sentences starting with the egotistical "I...") that some gays and lesbians misinterpret the term's connotations. Homosexual, unlike the pejorative "queer" (which, ironically, the gay community adopts) or "faggot," is pretty neutral in and of itself; it does not have denoted description implying inferiority like the aforementioned terms. Nevertheless, we affirm the heterosexuals' notion that homosexuality is inferior when we find the term to be demeaning. Heterosexuality and homosexuality merely define our sexual attractions; they do not ascribe any moral value. Thus, I find myself comfortable with being called a homosexual because I find nothing demeaning in the description of the term; it is one aspect of who I am; and, despite the fact that this will sound incredibly tacky, I am pretty proud of it.

I take it to be the same situation as when someone uses the terms "you hit like a girl," "he looks feminine," or calling a man by a feminine version of their name in order to taunt. Perhaps because I'm one of those rare but stereotypically gay male feminists. I know that being called a girl or woman is factually inaccurate, for the genitalia in between my legs seems to say otherwise. I would find myself betraying women if I were to be offended by such taunts. It would mean I'm accepting the patriarchal description of the inferior feminine as legitimate.

Thus, we see why we shouldn't be sensitive about terms which by themselves are neutral. If someone calls me a homosexual, I'll just be amused at someone's stupid need to state the obvious. It is the derogatory terms which possess demeaning definitions that we should be rejecting, namely that favorite term "queer."

Lucrece, the term homosexuality did not exist in the English language until the late 1800's with the invention of the field of psychiatry. From the beginning, the term was used to describe a mental condition. It belongs in the same category of words as pedophilia and necrophilia. It implies that gay and lesbian people are abnormal.

As for the use of the term "queer" by many in our community, I personally find the term to be more inclusive and political than calling myself a gay woman, but I also understand many people's objection to reclaiming "queer." For me, language is all about personal preference. A good analogy would be the use of the terms Latina/o, Chicana/o, or Hispanic. Each term means something different to different people. And it's a matter of personal preference how they would describe themselves.

Homosexual is still a term that many in our community use to describe themselves. There are always regional and generational differences with language use. But for me, I do not apply that label to myself and I don't appreciate other people using the term to describe me, because it's not who I am.

I understand where you're coming from. However, just to clarify, do you find the term heterosexual to possess the same qualities you described for the term homosexual? The term was used to describe a group of people that were believed to have a mental condition, which has changed recently. The sensitivity is understandable, though; some feel it over-sexualizes who we are. However, I don't find psychiatry's involvement with it as necessarily degrading; many psychiatric studies actually deal with normal behavior, as opposed to the stereotypes and stigmas we force on the field.

To be honest, though, I prefer the term gay, euphemism and all. Homosexual has a stigma because of heterosexist and homophobic thought, I think, not because the term is inherently possessing such qualities. Since it's neutral to begin with in denotation, perhaps it's just me being capricious in wanting to reclaim it back from the homophobes.

The LDS stance on homosexuality depends on church doctrine regarding the pre-existence of gender, as well as the different and unequal destinies assigned respectively to men and women. The inferior status of women in the Mormon church isn't a separate diatribe, Serena -- it's the subtext of your post.

richard schillen | November 15, 2007 8:23 AM

Serena,

A word of advice (even if you didn't ask for it). Louise Hay in her many speeches always bashed religions who made their minions guilty by asking the following questions:

1) does your religion make you feel guilty?
2) does your religion make you feel bad?
3) does your religion make you feel unhappy?
etc, etc, the questions went on for a while, each time the audience would scream yes!

Her answer was simple: there are zillions of religions out there, find another one that fits you and welcomes you!

I did it. Makes sense to me.

Tim, you're absolutely right. This post was long enough as it was without going more in depth on the gender issue. Maybe in another post . . . But yes, I agree.

Richard, I also agree with you. I left the Mormon Church in 1998. I was at BYU when Matthew Shephard was killed and that was the wake up call I needed to get out. Nowadays, I would consider myself spritual but not religious. There's a lot about Wicca and Buddhism that appeal to me. And when I feel like I need the extra charge of worshipping with others, I have a couple of different congregations that I like to visit. But I'm over being tied down to one religious body. God is everywhere and I don't have to be in a specific building to find her.

I enjoyed this post. It was very enlightening, and I hope your mom will be okay.

However, I use the term 'homosexual'. Similarly, I don't mind if someone refers to me as 'black' instead of 'African American' because they'll call me the N-word behind closed doors when they want to.

I think the beliefs of the person using the term is more important than the word itself, especially when used in a casual, un-malicious context.

Anywho, I enjoy your posts. Welcome to Bilerico! :)

Lucrece;

I think the problem with the term 'homosexual' is the '-sexual' part. The religious right uses the word 'homosexual' like a club to instill fear in the susceptible towards the LGBT community, and '-sexual' is the nail stuck into the end of that club.

By contrast, they hardly ever use the words 'gay', 'lesbian' or 'transgender' in their hate-filled, fear-mongering tracts. As a matter of fact (and I'm transgendered,) to the hate mongers, I'm a 'homosexual', too.

Serena Freewomyn, wonderful article on Mormon attitudes. I have two friends (trans) who are ex-Mormon, and my sister was a church member for several years (due to marriage) before she extracted herself from them., so what you wrote matched what I have been told about 'the church'.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 26, 2007 6:40 PM

I'm sorry your Mormon upbringing left you feeling hopeless to the point of feeling suicidal. Even if I am estranged from parents, I feel lucky to have had so many wonderful queer role models and a warm sense of community in contrast. Not that the negative ones didn't give me plenty of things that needed resolution before I could become the person who today so actively values the gift of being a lesbian but I had plenty of good examples and support to find my way home to my real family.

They're the people who call or e-mail when there's a big public defaming of us all like Pat Buchanan's 1992 RNC Culture War speech, who don't struggle for euphemisms to avoid calling Phyllis my wife, who would never dream of treating the two of us as anything but the primary family we are to each other. They're people who send me the local LGBT news -- and all the best gossip -- and they do their best keep me abreast of what's happening in the rest of my family, too. And that's a family the awareness of the size of which has grown huge in the last decade and a half, too, what with the Monticello Community reunions bringing long-separated branches together for those who choose to come and play!

Great information most churches use the "Hate the sin love the sinner” bit Growing up Presbyterian. I rarely heard this my folks go to a Methodist church now and yes I have heard that very phrase. But way to often it becomes “Hate the sinner to!” Now im happily BGP that’s Born again Pagan most have very few things they refer to as sinful against what you do though my own religion ASATRU tends to be a bit conservative in many areas but we are a mixed lot to be gay and open let alone trans is accepted by most especially if your also a magic user which I am as this trait has always been a part of the magic community of ASATRU. To be a non magic user you are judged on your deeds and how you behave around others not the fact you prefer the same sex.

The epidemiologic and medical terms for GLB are
MSM (men who have sex with men)
WSW
MSMW
WSWM
all of which are behaviorally based and bypass the orientation-identity issue which lies beneath the words "homosexual", "gay", "same-gender-loving", and "drunk and happy with any action, but considers themselves straight"

Serena, thanks so much for posting this -- this is incredibly informative and enlightening. And I'm sorry your mom is in such "trouble" with her congregation -- that just breaks my heart. Any progress on that front?

Blessings,
Gina

Serena,

As others have said, a very good and informative post. I feel your pain, in that when I was younger I inflicted upon myself the Southern Baptist church. Rather than providing comfort, it shamed me into hiding even more of who I am.

Like you, I have a lot of anger from the mental torture that their doctrines put me through.

The concept of sin was invented by the priests to control the lives of the people who followed them. All it has ever been is a device for control, a means of one group to exercise power over others. The religions derived from the judeo/christian/muslim god are just a way for the patriarchy to exercise its power over other people's lives.It was then, and is now just a political framework with which to exercise authority over others.

Religion is just another tool of the Man, Fight the power sister!

(The worst quote, however, from this tome comes from Elder Wickman, who claims:

Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season.)

Any questions why there is a rash of teens killing themselves with this kind of logic? Any questions return missionaries who have not been "cured" through their service to the Church have left it, to either kill themselves or go flying out of the closet or worse yet, go on the down low and bring STD's and HIV/AIDS into their marriages?

According to Mormon Lore, the only difference between the spirit that inhabits our bodies today and the one that was with G_d in the begining is that we lost the memory of our time with G_d. If this is correct doctrine, then...there had to be some Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans spirits running around. Crazy part is these same spirits are eternal. They are as they are in personality, trait, behavior and thought.

This brings up the subject why LDS Apologists think it is wrong to question G_d, or call him to Repentance? If it was Good enough for Abraham or Jacob, why isn't it good enough for the LDS Prophet today? If prophets in the past would ask G_d the same question over and over again, why then, oh why can't they do it today?